Page last updated at 12:21 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Infant place appeals up by a half

Officials say there was heightened awareness of the whole issue

The number of parents in England appealing against their children's infant school places went up by almost half last year.

Some 18,550 appeals were lodged in 2007-08, of which 12,690 were heard.

These were just 2.1% of all the 610,400 admissions but a rise of 47% on the number heard in the previous year.

These appeals have almost doubled in five years. Secondary school appeals have fallen though with a slight rise (2%) last year.

Of the 12,690 infant appeals that were deemed worthy of consideration by an appeals panel, 2,060 (16.2%) were successful in 2007-08 compared with 1,590 (18.4%) the year before.

This was only half the success rate in secondary schools where 12,970 (32.6%) went in parents' favour last year, down from 13,860 (35.3%) the previous year.


A rise in the number of school age children - set to grow over the next few years - has begun putting great pressure on the available school places in some areas.

This might be expected to have an impact on the number of appeals as children start their school lives and parents try to get them into the schools of their choice.

But officials at England's Department for Children, Schools and Families think the rise last year was more likely due to publicity around its new admissions code at the time people were receiving their placement letters.

Parents were also given guidance on how to lodge appeals, and more seem to have taken up the opportunity to do so.

'Transparent system'

Schools Minister Diana Johnson said: "The vast majority of parents get their child into a school that they are happy with and it is very rare that schools do not follow their own admissions rules.

"We deliberately created the transparent admissions system that exists, opening it up to parents and making it fair and accountable, because we want parents choosing schools, not schools choosing parents."

She said parents did not want the worry of appealing, they just wanted more good local schools and that was what the government was delivering.

"Some schools will always be more popular than others and no government can guarantee every single parent a place at their first preference.

"But getting your second choice does not mean you get a second class education; parents can be sure that whatever school their child goes to there will be significantly more teachers, support staff and funding available to the head than ever before."


But shadow schools minister, Nick Gibb, said: The figures showed increasing numbers of parents were unhappy with the school choices open to them.

"It also suggests that it is in the poorest areas that these problems are most acute," he said.

"The level of dissatisfaction underlines why it is so important we change the system so new providers can open new state schools wherever parents want them.

"That is the way to put education in the hands of parents and teachers, rather than bureaucrats, so that we can raise standards, particularly in the poorest areas."

The Liberal Democrats looked at the figures over the years to point out that since 1999 about half a million parents had been unhappy about the school their child had been placed in and had lodged an appeal, with only a third of these being successful.

Chris Keates of the NASUWT teachers' union said the rhetoric of "choice" casued problems.

"Politicians of all parties disingenuously bandy around parental choice. All this does is create dissatisfaction and unrealistic expectations," she said.

"It makes parents feel that they should be looking beyond their local school, even when they know it's good and are perfectly satisfied with it."

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